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Making Our Show Stall Decorations Fire Safe by Laurie Loveman
Laurie Loveman

Horse Show Stall Decorations should be made of fire retardant fabrics and/or coatings as one of the best ways to prevent a catastrophe!

I’ve always enjoyed taking time when I’m at horse shows or equine expositions, to stroll along the exhibitor stalls and admire the stall decorations and brightly-colored flyers advertising stallions and related farm and products information.  In fact, back when the Ohio Appaloosa Association was very active, one of the “events” of the very popular Youth Team Tournaments, directed by my dear friend, Sandy Shaffer, was a contest for best stall decorations.  It was a tough contest to judge because all the stalls were dressed up in a vast array of materials that had taken imagination and time to construct.  But back then, in all the excitement of the show, no one—not even the Ohio State Fair board—ever considered that all those decorations created a tremendous fire safety hazard. 

In fact, up until the height of the 2006 show season when Inspector William McCaine of the Oklahoma City Fire Marshal’s Office brought to my attention the problem of stall decorations, I had never considered the potential danger, and fire safety in horse barns and livestock facilities is my special interest.  Inspector McCaine said, “We do many horse shows here at our state fair arena and the problem I’m having is that in the barn areas the stalls have pretty much become show places with some of them decorated with elaborate frontages and decorations, most of which are toxic [in a fire] and highly combustible, not to mention in violation of fire codes.  The barns were not designed for that purpose or fire load.  I believe the lack of any current catastrophe has given everyone a false sense of invincibility and they do not realize the fire and life safety risks involved with this continued practice.”

A short time later, Inspector McCaine and the Oklahoma City Fire Marshal’s Office produced a set of regulations for the use of stall decorations.  The main focus of the regulations was on using fire-retardant coatings on all stall decorations so in case of a fire, the fabrics and other materials would not allow the flames to spread.  Stall decorations are something we all come in contact with at almost every big show! 

Barn FireFire-retardant coatings are not expensive and are easily applied.  If we all make a point of protecting our decorations using fire retardant fabrics and/or coatings this can be one of the best ways to prevent a catastrophe!  Of course, it’s extremely important that we all do it.  It doesn’t help much if we protect our stall decorations with fire-retardants if the exhibitor three stalls away doesn’t.  If you haven’t thought about having to evacuate a fairgrounds exhibitors barn, just take a moment to mentally picture getting your horses, kids, and pets out of an exhibitors barn when a hundred or more horses, people, children, and pets are all trying to get out at the same time. 
In my mind it’s a horrifying scene that I only want to imagine, not experience! 

Oklahoma City has created their regulations with our safety in mind and it’s probable that their regulations will be adopted by other fire marshal’s offices and other cities.  Don’t wait until the regulations are adopted in your area!  I urge you to look at the actual regulations, which you can find at http://www.laurieloveman.com/ok_stall_decorations.pdf and begin promoting these regulations in your own state, province, or country.  This is an easy-to-follow set of regulations that have the potential to save many lives.

Learn how to keep your horse barn and horses safe from fire at laurieloveman.com
Find romance, mystery, firefighting and Appaloosa horses in the 1930s; meet the folks in my Firehouse Family novels MEMORIES, THE QUARRY, and THE FARM FIRES.

Another Article on Fire Safety by Laurie Loveman - No Cost Fire Prevention for Your Barn

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